It’s the 40th Anniversary of President Nixon resigning and it has been over 44 years since four students were shot dead at Kent State University in Ohio by the National Guard. While we got that story on the nightly news, the event really went viral when Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released its song Ohio.
Fast forward to August, 2014, and a young African-American man was shot dead by police in Ferguson, MO, as he walked the streets of his new college town. In response, protests erupted in Ferguson and the local police went into riot mode, breaking out its para-military gear, lobbing tear gas into the crowds and even arresting Washington Post and Huffington Post reporters trying to cover the story. To this, St. Louis County Police Chief claimed his department was exercising great restraint in the face of the protests, while Missouri Governor Jay Nixon tweeted a request “for calm & urge(d) law enforcement to respect rights of residents & press.”
Closely monitoring situation & will be in North STL Co tomorrow. Ask for calm & urge law enforcement to respect rights of residents & press
— Governor Jay Nixon (@GovJayNixon) August 14, 2014
Wow… Nixon weighs in on the side of restraint.
Meanwhile, social media is exploding with posts about the crisis in Ferguson. Across all platforms, people are calling out the St. Louis County Police for its heavy-handed response. And you don’t have to wait for the song; you can read it all as it gets posted on Reddit. Reddit's live feed includes tweets, photos, videos and reportage not only from Ferguson, but from other protests unfolding elsewhere across the country. Although you don't get the oversight and verification that traditional journalism provides, it has an immediacy you can't get from network coverage or "regular" news sources online.
Unlike the Kent State Massacre of 1970, the world is watching the crisis in Ferguson as it unfolds via social media. This is the age of #citizenjournalism, where the police in Ferguson are being vined, tweeted, instagrammed, wall-posted and pinned under the great social media microscope.
However, in larger sense, it seems that the more things change, the more things stay the same. With just a small adjustment, the lyrics that went viral over the airwaves over four decades ago still hold truth today:
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
One dead in Ferguson, MO.